Monthly Archives: August 2016

What are Google’s most surprising product failures?


What are Google’s most surprising product failures? by Lewis Lin

Answer by Lewis Lin:

Here’s my list of Google product failures:

  • Google Wave. It could have been Slack.
  • Orkut. It could have been Facebook.
  • Google+. It could have been Snapchat or Whatsapp.
  • Google Hangouts on Air . It could have been Facebook Live or Periscope.
  • Google Answers. It could have been Quora.
  • Google Catalog Search. It could have been Pinterest.
  • Dodgeball. It could have been FourSquare or related social networking site.
  • Google Notebook. It could have been Evernote.
  • Google Page Creator. It could have been Squarespace.
  • Google Video. It wasn’t YouTube.
  • Google Glass. It should have waited until it was Google Contact Lens before it launched in the consumer market.
  • Google Knol. There’s plenty of information that can be Wiki-fied like dev documentation for open-source projects. Cloning Wikipedia was not the first thing that needed to be Wiki-fied.

Why did these products fail?

It’s not so much that the Googlers were lazy or incompetent. I’m positive they were hard working and committed. It’s more that product design is so hard that even the best companies can’t succeed 100% of the time.

Craig Lawrence pushed me to think a bit harder as to why Google failed. Despite hard work and commitment, here are reasons why Google failed so often:

  1. Lack of vision. There are only so many people who can predict the future. Sundar Pichai was one of those rare individuals who saw the Chrome browser and Chromebook OS opportunity, despite daunting odds and endless customer naysaying.
  2. Lack of resources. When I was at Google, I believe Google Notebook had half an engineer working on it a few months out of the year. Hard to defend the fort if the guard tower is empty.
  3. Lack of insight. The Google Wave and Google Glass team worked hard, but both teams missed the critical insight that others realized. That is, Slack realized work messages belong to channels. And Google Glass was too dorky to wear in public.
  4. Lack of focus. Google+ included everything but the kitchen sink. It was an authentication service. And a commenting plug-in. And an address book. And a multi-user video conferencing feature. It felt and was designed by committee.
  5. Lack of trying. I believe Marisa Mayer once said, “There are great (product) ideas that are executed poorly.” In other words, we shouldn’t conclude an idea is flawed because it failed. After Google Answers shut down, it was wrong to conclude that the Internet didn’t want a Q&A service. It was more appropriate to conclude that Google Answers just implemented Q&A the wrong way.

What’s the best way to avoid product failure?

From an organizational perspective, the best solution I’ve seen is the spinoff.

I’ve seen Expedia achieve good success after it was spun off from Microsoft.

And Expedia, apparently having seen the spinoff tactic work successfully, helped TripAdvisor flourish by spinning them off as well.

What are Google’s most surprising product failures?

L’Innominato ha un nome: Alessandro Manzoni


Sottoosservazione's Blog

Stefano Andrini per “Avvenire

«L’Innominato sono io». Parola di Alessandro Manzoni. La rivelazione, inedita, è stata lanciata dall’italianista Ezio Raimondi nel corso delle Giornate dell’Osservanza organizzate a Bologna per ricordare il centenario della conversione dell’autore dei Promessi sposi avvenuta nel 1810. Un’occasione per affrontare il tema della metanoia e della conversione sia sotto il profilo filosofico (Massimo Cacciari) e linguistico (il rettore dell’Università Ivano Dionigi). 

Raimondi ha ricordato che Manzoni non amava parlare della sua caduta da cavallo avvenuta il 2 aprile 1810, quando in mezzo alla folla la moglie svenne e lui si ritrovò in una chiesa dove fu investito da una nuova epifania. «Non c’è da meravigliarsi – ha affermato l’italianista – di questo suo pudore. Qui pesa l’umiltà dello scrittore: preferiva i temi romantici, dire “noi” piuttosto che “io”, non aveva neanche come il cardinale Newman il riferimento malizioso agli scrittori. Eppure introduce nel romanzo…

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My son got an offer from a 1-year-old startup by some very senior folks from Google. The pay is good and product idea is good, but it’s a…


My son got an offer from a 1-year-old startup by some very senior folks from Google. The pay is good and… by @mdroz8

Answer by Mike Karmindro:

Get your son to put in his 2 weeks notice.

Whether you realize it or not, your question has a wealth of information that makes this decision a no brainer.

Here's my assessment on the situation.

Startup founded by X-Senior-Googlers.  Enough said about the team, esp if they are engineers.

And the pay is goodYou mean he won't have to take a big pay cut in exchange for more potential financial reward (via options),  more interesting/challenging work, an amazing learning experience (being able to work with very smart people),  having a significant impact on a company's success, and acquiring skills that may help him to start his own company one day?  Awesome.

The company is 1 year old.  What does that tell me?  The hires in the early stage of a startup are key to the success of the company.  I consider 1 year still pretty early.     I know nothing about your son, but if these X-Googlers want to hire him this early, he's got to be pretty bright and good at what he does.   These founders are going to be super picky about who they hire, and they chose your son.  Congrats.

Also I'm willing to bet these guys have a pretty good shot at raising money from investors (if they haven't raise plenty already).  Investors know a lot of successful startups are built from former x-employees from top companies like Google.

OK, let's play devil's advocate here.  Let's look at your biggest fear, which is probably the company fails and your son is left without a job.  First, it's going to look great on his resume that a startup built by x-googlers hired him as an early employee.  And remember, your son is probably quite in-demand if these guys want him on their team.  So he's probably going to find another job pretty easily.  And don't forget the amazing experience he just acquired.

I feel very strongly about this because I don't want your son to miss a golden opportunity in his career, especially one that in my opinion has zero risk for him.  I almost walked away from an offer I got from a startup without nearly as good circumstances as your son has, and it turned out to be the single best decision I ever made. 



My son got an offer from a 1-year-old startup by some very senior folks from Google. The pay is good and product idea is good, but it's a…

Have you been hired by Google, Facebook or Microsoft (or another big company) for your performance on programming contests/challenges lik…


Have you been hired by Google, Facebook or Microsoft (or another big company) for your performance on … by Hieu Pham

Answer by Hieu Pham:

In my Junior year at college, I got internship offers from Facebook, Microsoft and Google. Considering my profile at that time, I think the only reason that they wanted me was my contests experience. My team was ranked 2nd in the regional ACM ICPC contest the prior year, and I was yellow on TopCoder, purple on Codeforces.

How do I achieve this? There are several steps.

  1. At the document round, I put my contests performance into my resume, and highlighted that I want to work in algorithm. Usually, for internships, this would bring you to the interview round.
  2. At the interview rounds, answer the questions as flawlessly and quickly as you can. These questions are usually fairly easy if you have any background in programming contests. Don't do anything like "First give a slow algorithm, and pretend as if you were trying to optimize it…", as taught at Hacking a Google Interview. IMO, it's quite dishonest and most interviewers would recognize that.
  3. If you answer all the questions very fast, you may ask for more questions. In case the interviewer did not prepare more, it's your responsibility to come up with questions for him or her. To do so, it is important to do some research about your interviewer beforehand. Stalk their Facebook, LinkedIn, whatever, for their background, school, and interest and prepare about 5 thoughtful questions about them and their team. You would be extremely lucky if your interviewer is involved in programing contest. It was once my case, where I just asked how my contest experience can fit into his team's work.

Good luck!

Have you been hired by Google, Facebook or Microsoft (or another big company) for your performance on programming contests/challenges lik…